Michael Caine Talks INCEPTION Ending

     September 29, 2010


Part of what makes Inception‘s ending great is that it’s open to interpretation.  In an interview with the BBC’s Chris Moyles, Michael Caine gave his opinion on the film’s ambiguous final shot.  For those who haven’t seen the film, I’ve put Caine’s thoughts on the matter after the jump.  Moyles also spoke to Caine about Batman 3 and you can read what Caine had to say on that film by clicking here.

After the image below, you can read what Caine said about the ending to Inception [via AICN]: [Spoiler, obviously]:


Caine says that Cobb is no longer in a dream and that the final scene is real. (i.e. the spinning top falls)

While that ending is happier, I think it’s also kind of dull.  I find the arguments that the entire film is a dream to be far more fascinating.  Some may argue that there is an objective truth to what the ending actually is, but Nolan clearly left it ambiguous in order to spark discussion.  Saying that there is only one answer closes down that discussion and makes the film less interesting as a result.

  • Trick

    Seemed like a self-aware trick from Nolan
    I mean, the top was not spinning the same as it did in the dream sequences
    In those sequences, the top spun so..surreal
    It was evident there was more at work than a simple spinning top
    But for the ending, it actually started to falter as the scene came to a close

    Besides, I personally don’t think a movie of this caliber needs a Shaymalan-like twist
    especially after everything working so well
    Just seems gimmicky and last minute and, quite frankly, undermines the intelligence of the movie. /opinion

  • Jack Frost

    Except of course the kids at the end are wearing exactly the same clothes they were in all the dream sequences throughout the film, so I’m afraid Caine is wrong on this one.

    • IllusionOfLife

      Nolan frequently uses point of view as a device for his films, Memento is the best example. Things are constantly altered in that film to show the unreliability of Leonard’s memory. If you take that into consideration, viewing the children the exact same way as he’s been dreaming of them all this time creates a much stronger visual representation of the dream coming true.

      It’s not that they were literally wearing the exact same thing, or in the exact same position, but that’s how Cobb perceived it in his mind’s eye.

    • Anonymous

      Go see it again. You have to look closely but the clothes are different. Just slightly but different. So CAINE is right.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_HJ32HAF57JDNQSEPAW6IVJRKPM Rashad

      Their clothes are different and they are bigger. There are two sets of kids in the credits too.

    • Sickups712

      ahhh but if u look it up the wardrobe director herself that the childrens clothes are diff…look it up

    • Silence

      Actually the kids are not wearing the same clothes. If you watch it closely, you’ll notice. Even the wardrobe person for the movie publicly stated that for those who pay really close attention, the kid’s clothes are different. And they are.

    • Silence

      Actually the kids are not wearing the same clothes. If you watch it closely, you’ll notice. Even the wardrobe person for the movie publicly stated that for those who pay really close attention, the kid’s clothes are different. And they are.

    • Rizk_ab

      i told my friends the same things about clothing. and Cobb didn’t care about his wheel spining i think that he didn’t care about it he just wnted to get back home

    • Aarongoure

      Actually if you check the credits they ha d older kids playing the kids in the last scene. and they are wearing different shoes.

    • roughy

      Do you think the last interpretation listed in this article is quite possible?

  • Anonymous

    I didn’t get it until the second viewing. Of course he wakes up.
    They accomplish the mission, COBB forgives himself and finally let’s the guilt about his wife’s death go, He stays behind because he has to find SAITO so SAITO can make the call that will allow him to enter the country. The kids clothes are different. YOu have to look closely but the clothes are different. The top was clearly losing momentum. In a dream it always spun flawlessly. It cut to black because COBB didn’t need to see it stop spinning and neither did we. COBB knew it was all real. THere is absolutely no reason for him to still be dreaming.
    I think the problem was that INCEPTION was billed as this complicated existential movie about dreams. SO we analyzed every little thing when we really didn’t have to. The second time I saw it I finally appreciated it for what it was. A heist film about one last job. That’s it. It’s different from other heist films because it involves dreams.

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  • Gonethesun921

    People have tried to make Inception WAAAAAAYYY more complicated than it actually was. It didn’t have any deeper meaning, the ending wasn’t some twist, and there is never even a hint of either of these things. Thinking that there was is simply wishful thinking over a visually stunning and clever heist film, told very well.

    • Streaky_7

      BUT that was the whole point of the ending…that was Nolan cleverly planting the idea in our heads to try and make us run away with an idea….exactly as COBB did to MAL. Amazing film from start to finish.

    • Streaky_7

      BUT that was the whole point of the ending…that was Nolan cleverly planting the idea in our heads to try and make us run away with an idea….exactly as COBB did to MAL. Amazing film from start to finish.

  • goldNiggAgrill

    yo mommas so dumb she go to bass pro shop nigga!

  • Exceptionalman

    Im very happy that Michael Caine has cleared this up.

    Makes it a more satisfying film to me.

  • Anonymous

    after seeing it a second time, i definitely think it was real. the whole movie being a “dream” would be beyond stupid. Yeah Nolan left it open to interpretation, but it’s pretty obvious anyway i think.

    i think the kids were his true totem, he saw their faces. he knew he was in the real world. plus the spin toppled just a lil bit.

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  • pussy galore

    Jack Frost and I are thinking the same thing. The kids didn’t age and are wearing the exact same clothing.

  • Apeplinski

    the ending is great because it situates viewers in the same position as Mal was, after Cobb has performed inception on her

  • Apeplinski

    the ending is great because it situates viewers in the same position as Mal was, after Cobb has performed inception on her

  • Alex

    Well Nolan is just lame both ways.

    The ending is real, it was all a dream.
    The ending is a dream it was all a dream.
    The ending is real, it was a dream heist film.

    All lame endings.

    • oooohburn

      your face is lame

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Austin-Bond/1285270599 Austin Bond

    I thought Michael Caine’s character performed Inception on him, but I suppose that makes sense as well.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Austin-Bond/1285270599 Austin Bond

    I was left wondering how the other dream-checkers (like the spinning top) worked. If Ariadne had a chess piece, how did it work? Or the dice that Arthur used?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Austin-Bond/1285270599 Austin Bond

    I was wondering how the other totem’s worked. It would have been cool to find out how the chess piece and die worked in dream and reality.

    • Ken

      I imagine the die was loaded, so in reality it would always turn up a certain way. The chess piece was about the balance, so I doubt you’d do anything but hold it and feel for reality.

      • Andre

        The die was loaded, he said that in the movie. The only purpose of the pieces was to ensure they weren’t in someone elses dream. Because, for example, the weighted die, no one else knows exactly how much that die weighed, except for him. Therefore no other architect could recreate a world, and get that one item right. If he were in his own dream, he could recreate the exact weight of that die, becuase he knows what it is. They were simply a defense against being in someone elses dream, which makes it possible that Cobb was dreaming the entire movie, becuase he knew his top needed to stop, and so it did.

  • Joyce

    Someone told me SeekingAffluent.com It ‘s where you have the opportunity dreaming about dating a millionaire and make it true *^o^*

  • Lonelsystudent19

    OK, YES, the kids clothes are different, BUT the kids are of the same age, therefore they have NOT aged and he said he hadn’t seen them for years, so therefore it was not real at the end.

  • Sentient_afterbirth

    Leaving the ending a mystery mattered not at all. The most important aspect of the ending was Cobb’s reaction to seeing his children. Cobb was the greatest advocate for objective reality throughout the movie, he refused to look at his kids because he knew his love for them would make him falter from that notion and accept subjective reality. The first thing he does is spin his totem when he gets to the house, still wanting to know if the events unfolding were real, he sees his kids and leaves without viewing the results of his spin, essentially rejecting objective reality for his happiness, real or not. His rejection was the tragic beauty of the end and for my 2 cents is Nolan commenting on how fragile our desire for truth is when weighted against our deepest emotional needs.

  • Tribalxgecko

    I agree with Lonelsystudent19. Granted the kids are wearing slightly different clothes, and may be slightly older (though to me they looked the same). But that is all because that is how Cobb would have dreamed it. At this point he thinks he is awake, and his subconscious would take over from there. Did you notice how everything happens so fast and smooth at the end? Cobb gets –exactly– what he DREAMED for. Pun intended of course. No hurdles, no hiccups, nobody even talks to him.

    The whole point is that it does not matter if it is a dream or not anymore, Cobb has what he always –dreamed– of having back. Like they say, love conquers all.

    • Gilbert_gumphrey

      Frankly, I can’t take Caine’s word on this. I saw him speak at TIFF last year, and he said he was on set for one day, and that he couldn’t spoil the movie for us even if he wanted to because he was only allowed to read the two pages of script he was in the movie for. So really, if he’s making any definite assumptions, that’s all they are – assumptions. I doubt someone like Nolan would flat out tell him what the ending meant, and since he probably didn’t do that, it’s safe to assume Caine made a guess.

      • NoOne

        If you watch the film enough times it becomes evident that Cobb’s real totem is his wedding ring. There are many scenes in the movie where he is supposed to be transitioning from the dream world to the real world and vice versa where his ring will magically just appear or disappear from his hand.

        His children are definitely wearing different clothes at the end of the movie, that is also evident on enough viewings.

        However, the point that two sets of actors were cast for his kids being proof that they aged is invalid. Everyone seems to forget that Cobb saw his children with Mal on the beach in one of his memories, and they clearly looked younger there, more like infants/toddlers. This was a memory he revisited, but it was at least a year or more since it had happened since he was with Mal and the kids on the beach and she was still alive.

        The thing is that they never specify how long he has been away from home. It could have been only a year or two, it just feels like forever to a tortured father unable to even see his children, while still struggling with his role in their mother’s (and his beloved wife) death.

        SO I would venture that the age of his kids means nothing since we have no time measurement to mark how much has passed between any point in the film.

        But his wedding ring is a good indicator, Nolan makes a point of letting us see it or not see it in every pertinent scene, EXCEPT everything after Leo wakes up on the plane. It is ambiguous from there whether or not he has it on, though there are times when Nolan teases just part of his hand. I think he just threw the top in one more time to perform Inception on us the audience.

  • Frippfan

    The point is not, I feel, whether “it’s all a dream,” but rather that Cobb can’t really be sure – recall that the top was Mal’s totem, not his, and we don’t, as far as I recall, ever see him use it in a dream. It’s misdirection, for him and for us. I think the deeper point is the question of how one subjectively defines one’s own reality and in doing so creates it. Is Cobb still in a dream? As the overseer at Yusuf’s place says, “the dream has become their reality. Who are you to say any different?” So, my point would be that the external reality of Cobb’s world is the least relevant question, whereas what he, and the others, choose to believe is what is important. This could be further suggested by the fact that he walks away from the top rather than waiting for it to fall; many have commented that he forgets, but there is nothing to demonstratively establish whether he is forgetting or choosing to ignore the top, and thus the interpretation that he ignores it, especially in context of Mal’s comments to him in limbo, I think is quite valid.

    All of which is to say that Michael Caine has really revealed nothing, because he is only discussing what could be judged an irrelevant question.

    • SmokeySmogs

      He does use it while speaking with old Saito, but in any situation it’s not important, because it spins for some time, then the scene cuts, so you may not know anyway, if it falls.

  • Pat

    My first thought was that Cobb was stuck forever in limbo, which was depressing. But then I realized that he finally got to see his kids’ faces, something he could never do in his dreams, and walked away from the spinning top without bothering to see if it ever fell. The POINT is that he released his guilt over his wife’s death and was reunited with his kids, so whether it was real or a dream, he’d found happiness and the only purpose of the spinning top was to let the AUDIENCE decide whether it had all been real or a dream. I think that was a very clever and brave narrative decision on Nolan’s part; it also allows anyone who WANTS to believe that it ends a certain way to interpret it as such, and come away feeling satisfied but ALSO with a deep need to discuss the film with everyone they know, and go see it again to look for additional meaningful hints.

    I agree with Caine that the ending was real. But I like that it’s left JUST open enough to interpretation that the more pessimistic members of the audience can get the ending they want, too.

  • Jamesmazzeo

    I love that it stopped, felt the characters pain. Dicaprio should win an Oscar for this role, Nolan should win an Oscar as directed. Best movie of the summer!!

  • cc

    Awake or in his dream state, either way Cobb was ready to be with his children at the end of the movie. There are visual cues like many have stated, with regards to the childrent so I believe that Cobb was awake at the end. Now the movie may have a been a dream of Cobb’s all along as well, but since he was willing to allow himself to see his children at the end, that was good enough for me to feel fulfilled in that instance.

  • Hobbsm

    I think this movie works on multiple levels. It doesn’t matter if it’s real or not, the ending is great because it creates discussion. The genius of this film is that it works no matter your interpretation.

    • Theplanetstrilogy

      I think most people are missing the point. Yes he wakes up and gets to see his kids. It doesn’t matter whether they’re in the same clothes or not. People seem to be missing the fact that the the level of reality in which they plan the heist is a dream to begin with.

      The very fact that the spinning top (totem) exists tells us it’s a dream. Think about where the totem came from. When Cobb went into the safe/vault (core) of his wife’s conciousness to plant (incept) the idea that they were in a dream and she needed to kill herself to wake up, he finds the top/totem. Therefore, the Totem is infact and idea in physical form. An idea can’t exist in physical form in reality.

      Cobbs wife jumps to her death, her second suicide, it’s because she’s realised they haven’t woken up in reality.

      The whole thing, by the virtue Cobb is in posession of the totem, is a dream. He needs to wake up once more and his wife, and possibly kids since we never get to see the actual reality, will be waiting. Maybe his wife was a doctor and he’s in a coma. We’ll never know and therein lies the speculation.

      The whole film, as brilliant as it is, from point A-B, is just a clever, warped dream world.

  • Protekt0r

    Everyone is missing the point here. DiCaprio walks away from the spinning top before it falls indicating he no longer cares whether or not he’s in a dream or reality. The message is clear: he’s no longer consumed with the dream/reality conundrum.

    • MCP

      That’s the first thing I got from the ending. Whether or not it was real or a dream, he had left his totem/”crutch” for his kids.

      Also, all this talking is making want to watch it again. Needs to hurry the hell up and get released on DVD/Blu!!!!
      Nolan, Mach Schnell!!!

      end of line

  • Wikingking

    It was only his opinion, so it shouldn’t handled as the one and only possibility. There are at least 5 different versions about the ending, and so, the whole film.

  • bad spellre

    is it just me or dose this film seem similar to shutter island in ths sence that both films are about a man dealing with the guilt he feels for his insane wifes death and to coup with this he must travel with in his own mind to deal with it, obviously this is a much better film. and the ending being vauge works to spark discusion, Nolah probably dosent even know if Cobb is still dreaming or not but that dosnt matter its meant to be a philosophical movie not a preachy one

    ps. every one should go see Following another Nolhan film aswome movie

  • Jacksontorres

    While Caine has an explanation, the one he gives clearly isn’t the be all and end all that Nolan intended.

    Just think about the similarlity in lines between Saito and Mal, the “leap of faith”. I very much doubt that, and all the other instances, was a coincidence in the scriptwriting, and it could only have been intended to allude to a possible inception being performed on Cobb.

    That’s not to say one was. But certainly Nolan intended that as a possibility. So the spinning top ending wasn’t just thrown in as a lame talking point twist.

  • Jacksontorres

    While Caine has an explanation, the one he gives clearly isn’t the be all and end all that Nolan intended.

    Just think about the similarlity in lines between Saito and Mal, the “leap of faith”. I very much doubt that, and all the other instances, was a coincidence in the scriptwriting, and it could only have been intended to allude to a possible inception being performed on Cobb.

    That’s not to say one was. But certainly Nolan intended that as a possibility. So the spinning top ending wasn’t just thrown in as a lame talking point twist.

  • JCgua

    If the whole thing was a dream, then how could De caprio see all the other characters dreams and actions when he was not with them?

  • Makbeth

    I just recently saw this movie after hearing all the hype about how confusing/ambiguous it is etc. Its actually quite straightforward. When it cuts to the plane/waking p scene its unclear. The transition from the airport to the house made me think it was a dream, but then the spinning top falters.
    I believe a lot of the “deeper discussion” into some points are from people who were bewildered and jumped upon the first explaination that sounded good.
    People just expect a twist at the end. Maybe when they dont see one they invent their own to avoid being the one who “didnt get it”.
    To those who didnt understand any part of this film I would say, watch it again, and this time dont switch off when it sounds like something uber confusing is happening.
    There are three points of confusion:
    I know some people hear the word “maths” and automatically decide they dont understand, there is no difficult maths involved, and its irrelevent anyway. All you need to know is that you percieve time more slowly while dreaming, an effect that becomes stronger if you are in a deeper dream etc.
    The next point is the “dream within a dream” concept. But thats just it. Imagine dreaming that you are having a dream, and as part of that dream you wake up, but you are still only dreaming that you woke up. Most of the other concepts are just invented for the film, shared dreaming, controling and shaping dreams and waking up in certain circumstances.
    The final point of confusion would be the ending. Its mostly confusing because it doesnt really give you an answer untill the end, but the answer is there. The final sequence is very vague, and there is little dialog. They go out of their way to make you question if its reality or not, but final shot answers all(based on the rules defined within the film).
    The story arcs of the other characters are left unresolved, which makes the ending seem rather empty, and people have filled it up with the twist that “must be there”, simply because without it the film doesnt really have a complete ending.
    Any “evidence” that leads you to believe that there is a twist, was put there to keep you guessing.
    But ye, dont assume its overly complicated, and if you found this difficult to follow dont even bother with Memento.

  • Turgai

    Oh man, no matter how improbable this sounds, after reading the answers, I am pretty sure Nolan is secretly developing a sequel to the movie, which actually would be awesome. A lot of the rules seem to be still untold. Like, I would guess the totem should logically not function as a reality-check device if you are in your own dream – your mind would replicate all its properties, because it would believe it is real.
    Supported by the above, and by Nolan’s reply – the fact that totem falls over does not mean that this is ultimate reality, it could be that Cobb is within his own dream, and his mind believes that he is in reality.
    OK, kids grow – different set of kids, but how probable is that they are in virtually same position Cobb saw them last and in which they appear throughout the movie?
    There are a lot of unanswered questions.
    What happens in Levels 2 and 3 if you die while sleeping in Level 1 just before the kick – as what happened to Cobb?
    What happens if you die in Limbo and there is no ‘kick’? Do you just re-spawn?
    And – important question – if you get to Limbo through the device, like Cobb and Mal did in the past – and then you die (crashed by train), do you wake up in reality or just in next-level-up dream? … Logic tells me Mal was right killing herself – and she knew that the totem was not the real deal – it was her totem, she must’ve known better. And apparently they were in Cobbs dream.
    Dreams are strange – it is strange that just because Cobb couldn’t see his kids faces the last instant, he cant seem to ever see their faces, even in his dreams.
    Anyways, I could go on and on…
    Sequel can be awesome, remember my words. :))

  • Rudess

    I think perhaps we shouldn’t be so concerned with what NOLAN wanted us to think, and instead perhaps think about what we ourselves find in deep thought. It’s the same question that pervades every intellectual thriller: what if…none of this is real?

    “…where it’s going, you don’t know…but it doesn’t matter….”

    ENJOY. Quit complaining. Because it really doesn’t matter if it was a dream in the end.

  • Sid

    I believe that Cobb is still dreaming and he was actually that target of Inception all along. The plot revolves around Cobb’s efforts to implant an idea in the mind of Fischer, But Cobb is constantly receiving messages from multiple characters. Saito, insist that Cobb “take a leap of faith,” along with repeatedly warning Cobb that he will become an “old man, filled with regret, waiting to die alone.” Ariadne is constantly telling Cobb “to deal with his issues” with Mal. It seems to me that while Cobb is trying to get inside the head of Fischer, these ideas are implanted in his mind.

  • MHW

    The clues are in the comments that the characters make. Ariadne (named after a Greek Goddess who gave her love a ball of thread to find his way out of a labryinth) is the one who is helping Cobb find his way back to reality which, as he said, was lost when he and Mal washed up on the shore of their own subconscious. Saito is in cahoots with the father – he is a powerful man but a rival is standing in the way of him becoming a world power — if he had to sacrifice 50 years in limbo to get that power would he? Yes he would and in return he helps the person who helps him get that power, Cobb, return to his children. They had shared dreams before and that’s why he made the comments about knowing someone who had the totem and dying an old man filled with regret, etc. The children at the younger age are his totem – something only he would know about them – that is why he did not want to see their faces, because he wanted to be able to decipher them in reality. Using Mal’s totem as Arthur said defeated the purpose. When he saw his children’s face he knew that he was in the real world and that is why he did not need to see the top spinning anymore. Nolan just left it up in the air because it made for great conversation afterwards.

  • Nate

    It seems pretty clear to me that it was going to topple at the end. Caine even confirms it here. I think for some reason people just don’t enjoy “happy” endings anymore. They get this idea that something twisted our a big swerve is required. I’m not saying that those things shouldn’t happen in movies, they should, but when a movie appears to have a happy ending why do people feel the need to call it “dull” anyways. Makes me think lesser of the person’s opinion to be honest.

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  • premanand

    guys at the end the spinning top not fells down the movie ends

  • Bastooba

    Ok, he was awake at end, i think the spinning top represents the fact that his ‘dream’ was to be home with his kids…….they have used the explanation of if spinning = dream, if fall = reality and twisted it at the end. Instead of it being a reference for reality versus dream, it was a metaphor that Cobb was finally living his dream (seeing his kids and back home)

    Beat that !

  • aprilla

    it is real @ da end…. mr caine re-spins the spinning top when he goes bak in da room. wen u check da kids clothing dey are wearing DIFFERENT clothes… in da dreams dey both wear dark coloured shoes and the girl has jus a short sleeved pink dress on… everytym!!! i may add ive gone over this on dvd in detail 2be sure………..
    @ da the end in real world.. they are wearing light coloured trainers and the girl has a white t-shirt on under a thin strapped pink dress…… shes a girl… of course she gona have more den one pink dress…….. my niece has many!!!!!!
    so der u go its real…. besides da obvious fact dat the spinning top moves very precise in da all dreams but @ da end its wobbly, den sudenly spins stronger (after mr caine goes in da room)…. well der he saw it and spun it (boring ending in reality i know)
    there u go!!!!!!